Private Healthcare Players to Augment Government’s Capacity Across the Value Chain of Vaccine Distribution and Administration

Delhi,INDIA - Private hospitals have been the foundation of serving more than 70% of bed capacity and ~60% of inpatient care in India as per EY-FICCI study titled, “Protecting India: Public Private Partnership for vaccinating against COVID-19,”released by Dr V K Paul Member, NITI Aayog in the presence of Lord David Prior, Chair, NHS England at FICCI’s AGM ‘Inspired India’. This study aims to highlight the role and extent of private sector participation in supporting the government to accelerate the process of targeted vaccination against COVID-19 across the country.

Private hospitals have dedicated up to 40%-80% of their bed capacity for treating COVID-19 patients and supplemented government efforts of scaling up testing by contributing to 45% of the testing capacity in India. Given the scale, complexity and timeline of the program for mass-inoculation against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, private players can significantly augment government’s capacity across the value chain of vaccine distribution and administration.

To achieve the aspirational goal of inoculating 60%-70% of the population in a two-year timeline with inoculation of prioritized groups (30 crore or 22% of population) in the next eight months, there is a pressing need for potential engagement models between private and public sector across different stages of the vaccine value chain.

Kaivaan Movdawalla, Partner – Healthcare, EY India, says, “Several vaccine candidates are reporting very encouraging results in late-stage trials. While this is a welcome news that the world has been yearning for, the challenge of producing, distributing and administering the vaccine to the population in the shortest possible time is formidable, more so for a country like India given our population, geographical spread and skewed health infrastructure across urban and rural areas and between the states. Hence it is imperative that the government draws on the commitment, capability and capacity of the private sector to fulfil this national duty in the most effective and efficient manner, for the relief of citizens and in a bid to help the country to return to normalcy as soon as possible.”

Dr Sangita Reddy, President, FICCI and Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Enterprises, expressed that, “While India has been a powerhouse for vaccine production and distribution, vaccinating over a billion people is a first, and appears to be a daunting task which requires current capacities to be scaled up extremely fast. FICCI and its healthcare industry members have pledged to support the government in its COVID-19 vaccine roll out. FICCI-EY report highlights the key strategies for effective partnerships between the government and industry stakeholders. Additionally, since this is a new vaccine, we all need to collaborate to educate the community about the Need, Safety, Efficacy as well as positive impact of vaccines and why we should not resist getting vaccinated.”

Addressing the session on Vaccine Magic and reimagining healthcare in a post COVID world, organized during FICCI’s 93rd Annual Convention, Dr Paul, stated, “globally, 33 vaccines are in clinical trial phase out of which 10 vaccines are in the advanced trial phase. 3 Indian vaccines are part of the top 10 global players. It is a proud moment to say that the key 3 indigenous players- Bharat Biotech-ICMR, Zydus Cadila and Serum Institute-Astra Zeneca are in clearance phase 2, which has created an Apollo 11 moment for India. This gives us hope for manufacturing the vaccines not just for India but also for the world."

The study estimates that India may need 1.3 lakh-1.4 lakh vaccination centers, ~1.0 lakh healthcare professionals (as inoculators) and ~2.0 lakh support staff/ volunteers for mass-inoculation of prioritized individuals (30 crore people as identified by the government, includes healthcare professionals, frontline workers, people above 50 years and also people with co-morbidities) by August 2021 and the entire adult population (80 crore) by the end of 2022. To meet the demand of 1.3 lakh-1.4 lakh centres, ~60% of the existing public health infrastructure will have to house a vaccination center. Against the requirement of 1.0 lakh inoculators, the public sector can potentially provide 60,000-70,000 (10% of the nurse/ANM capacity in public sector) of them. This could lead to a capacity constraint especially in key states such as Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Private sector can adequately supplement the physical and human infrastructure supply in key capacity constrained regions, specifically in urban and semi-urban areas. Additionally, a second line of inoculators among allied health professionals will have to be made available through training and credentialing process to meet the requirement of inoculators.

As per survey carried out by FICCI and EY, in association with NABH, NATHEALTH and other healthcare associations with 264 private healthcare organizations, a high proportion of respondents stated their capacity and willingness to participate in the vaccination drive.

Physical infrastructure: 84% have earmarked inoculation facilities in their hospitals/ centers and 54% have cold storage facilities to store vaccines on site.

Manpower allocation: 88% have trained inoculators available for vaccination, 70% are willing to allocate manpower in semi-urban/rural areas for vaccination and 94% are willing to impart training for inoculation. A trained pool of 30,000 inoculators is also available for inoculation from amongst the participants. Coverage of inoculation services: 81% are willing to inoculate front line workers (e.g., police), teachers, students, etc. in local areas, 75% are willing to inoculate their local communities (within 5km radius)

In the early phases of vaccine roll-out, the entire vaccine administration machinery will be controlled for prioritized beneficiary categories. The program will be largely managed by the government, provided their capacity of human resource for vaccination is adequate. With expansion of the program to include general public enabled by ramp-up in vaccine supply, a hybrid model involving resource sharing between public and private players is likely to emerge to bridge capacity gaps across the value chain as per local requirements for augmentation of infrastructure and technical capacity.